Pulling into the drop-off line at my daughter’s and step-daughters’ new high school, I found myself desperately wanting to pour encouragement and wisdom into their excited and nervous bodies. They are starting their freshman year and this passage feels oddly huge. Their adult-sized bodies and full backpacks climbed from the car, and out of nowhere, I found myself quietly saying: “Trust yourself. You have all you need within you already. Stay true to yourself.”
Through wispy tears on my subsequent drive to work, I wondered if they really grasp what it means to trust themselves, or if they could possibly know that they have all they need within, or how “staying true to yourself” manifests in their lives?
In 2001, I founded Girls on the Run of the Triangle, NC and subsequently was vice president of training and development for Girls on the Run International. In this role, I managed training for new council directors. On the first day of this training, we discuss this concept of “having all we need already within” and that, as adults, many of us spend a lot of time and energy searching for that connection to our true inner self that gets buried over time and with challenging life experiences. We start this discussion with the following reading:
A legend from ancient India tells of a musk deer who, one fresh spring day, detected a mysterious and heavenly fragrance in the air. It hinted of peace, beauty and love, and like a whisper beckoned him onward. Compelled to find its source, he set out, determined to search the whole world over. He climbed forbidding and icy mountain peaks, padded through steamy jungles, trekked across endless desert sands. Wherever he went, the scent was there, faint yet always detectable. At the end of his life, exhausted from his relentless search, the deer collapsed. As he fell his horn pierced his belly, and suddenly the air was filled with heavenly scent. As he lay dying, the musk deer realized that the fragrance had all along been emanating from within himself …
This relentless search is one of the things that we hope to help girls avoid through their participation in the Girls on the Run program. We envision a world where every girl knows and activates her limitless potential and spends her life energy in positive ways, being joyful, healthy and confident. It is fitting that we spend precious training time with the leaders of Girls on the Run councils reflecting on personal journeys and unpacking our relentless search as part of the process to pave the way to authentically lead GOTR programs.
What happens in our lives that sets us out on this relentless search? And, besides falling on a piercing horn, how do we come to learn, and know in our bones, that the heavenly fragrant lies within? And the magic bullet parenting question: how do I protect my girls from drifting from their true selves into risky and unhealthy territory. I don’t claim to know any answers and continue to seek the truth. But what I do know is that tuning into my own seeking and staying awake in my own life is a starting place. My girls can sense when I am not aligned with my values or not grounded in who I am and they know when I have set off on a relentless search, thus not walking my talk.
We sat around the kitchen later that evening, laughing about the day: the upperclassmen yelling “freshies” when they entered the designated lunch spot for juniors, the settling into the wrong classroom full of seniors only to have to walk out, head held low, five minutes after the class started, and the “crazy” teacher who couldn’t pronounce their names correctly. In this sweet space of family laughter and sharing, I realized the increased importance of being deeply connected to my true self so that I can, in turn, create and hold a safe and loving space for these courageous, strong girls to stay internally anchored. In the midst of all of this change and letting go, I find comfort knowing that this is my new job for this next chapter of their lives and I am filled with gratitude that I have worked for an organization where my “mom work” is fed by my professional work and vice versa!